April 30, 2012

Life can suck

Following Christ is hard.

It really is, and sometimes life can suck when you follow him.

Please don't misunderstand that - it's undeniably worth it to follow Him, the joy of doing so easily makes up for any displaced temporary happiness that would come from living for yourself, and the eternal reward is unquestionably awesome, but...

sometimes it sucks.

sometimes it's hard.

sometimes it's overwhelming.

I've been chewing on this thought for a couple weeks. I started to write about it a few times, but nothing took because, well, writing a post called "Why Life Sucks" is hard and kinda sucky in and of itself. But over the weekend, we had an event here and one of the speakers helped fuel some thoughts about the suckyness of life.

He preached the prosperity gospel.

I had heard lots about it, thought about it, heard John Piper rail on it, seen it from a distance on the internet, held it as an abstract, seen it on television, but never encountered it in person.

Have you heard it? It's the teaching that it's God's will for you to be wealthy...

and healthy...
and rich...
and living in luxury...
and extravagance...
here on this sucky, broken, sinful planet.

It says you have the dominion and the power that whatever you proclaim, it will come back to you. But only if you've got the faith.

The problem is that most of the heroes of faith were incredibly poor.

And that Christ makes it abundantly clear that if that's the kingdom you live for, you'll have no place in His.

And that it fuels a pessimism and despair amongst those who are dealt terrible circumstances, a perspective that God is not in this, whatever this circumstance is, instead of a hope that God has something better ahead.

...Something that didn't roll off an assembly line in Germany, something that wasn't printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving in Fort Worth or Washington, D.C.  The abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10, and the glorious riches from Philippians 4:19 have nothing to do with a BMW or a stack of cash.

There should be nothing more appalling than the idea that coming to Christ will lead you to riches, to circumstances which, in Christ's own words, make it more difficult for you to enter his kingdom than for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle. Christ doesn't need to come with a bonus offer.

On the contrary, being a disciple of Christ comes with a heavy load. It makes life harder.

Look at every hero of the Bible. We overlook the fact that essentially every one of them endured a desert of some kind. Moses' desert was literal. Joseph was a slave. Jeremiah cried all the time. Others were thrown into lions dens or furnaces, spent years on the run. Jesus himself went through a literal desert too, 40 days facing any temptation that man could experience.

I'm sure their struggles didn't come for lack of faith.

We shouldn't overlook this.

Come to Christ and you'll inevitably find yourself in a desert.

Life can suck. Life is allowed to suck.


"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him in the midst of loss."
- John Piper, in the video I not-so-sneakily linked to above. Not sure he's the original, but we'll run with him for now.

April 17, 2012

What I'm Reading

Currently reading: Ordering Your Private World, by Gordon MacDonald

Funny how you can only embrace a book when the time is right. My friend Kim loaned me this book years ago. It's been on my shelf for years. I even tried to give it back once. He asked me "Did you read it?" and I think I politely told him - "I er um uh... no." And so he insisted that I keep it. Welp, I thought, if you insist it's that good, and you don't need it back, maybe I'll hang onto it until I finally decide I need to read it. Or more likely, the day comes that I have a shortage of books and nothing else seems right.

That title, Ordering Your Private World... that is not an attention-getter. That wasn't going to drag me into the book. Even now, I recoil at it a little bit. Order my world? Like a pizza? It doesn't even sound Christian, and if it is, it's probably that Joel Osteen brand or something. It sounds like it should be sold at self-help seminars, like a book for executives or office people, for pastors who give people sound advice, for... for grown-ups. I place myself firmly outside of all of those categories.

And yet... And yet...

I find myself recoiling at the title of the book a little less these days. Maybe I'm creeping toward genuinely needing to get my private world in order.

Ugh. And so here I am, reading this practical book with all of it's practical advice. And there's not a whole lot of that deep, abstract, mind-blowing mystical mysterious Jesus stuff I've gravitated towards, the kind of stuff I thought Kim might recommend. Nope. Common sense. Like how not to suck at budgeting your time. And how to keep your brain in shape.

And It's kinda refreshing. I don't like that it's refreshing, but it is.

This is not a new book, it's an old book. It's not high on the best-seller list, it's not hip (sorry, Gord, but you knew that). But it's a good read, for sure.

I've always wondered how to keep track of all the stuff I'm supposed to know. So I added a little notebook to my life so I didn't have to hold it all in my brain, and I started to write things in it. It's small and I carry it everywhere and I'd be destroyed if anyone ever found it and leafed through all the half-truths and unfinished thoughts and terrible story ideas in it. I write stuff like "buy bananas," and "always tell the truth because it's easier to remember" and "Swearing a lot in my head is probably a violation of Ephesians 4:29... or is it?"

All that to say: there's too much in life to balance and remember on your own. We forget stuff. Little things. Big things. Deep things. Spiritual things. Practical things. So sometimes we need other people to teach us new practical ideas and remind us of some of the ones we're obviously supposed to remember. Every now and then you need to read a book like this.

Maybe you don't need it. I do. I'm disorganized. (Pleeease do not read my little notebook.) And so this book is written for me. And Kim probably saw that I needed all those years ago, and it's a good thing I finally took his word for it. Some of us have a messy private world, which I think is a very concise way of saying we've got a big tangle of stuff we have to privately remember and think about and decide in our heads, hearts, souls. And if that inner world is messy, the outer one will be too.

MacDonald argues early on - and I would agree - that a private world can never really be in order without Christ. He writes in such a way that it's not preachy or overbearing. Even though I'm reading an edition that's as old as I am, it still fits today. For what it's worth, MacDonald has written an updated version that mentions Twitter and stuff.

I won't bother to write much more about it, because MacDonald has covered it fairly well in the book. Which you might want to read.


When you realize you need to.